Dundee Says Good-Bye to Longtime Home

October 25, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

DUNDEE – One more memory.

After 85 years of playing prep football in the same location, Dundee will close the doors on its stadium tonight with plans to move into a new athletic complex next fall. Vikings head coach Kyle McElvany called tonight’s game against undefeated and state-ranked Hillsdale one more chance for the Vikings to make an ever-lasting memory.

“There is so much tradition and history here over the course of 85-plus years,” McElvany said. “It’s humbling. We hope to go out and make our alumni and community proud.”

Dundee hasn’t been to the playoffs in seven years, but a victory over Hillsdale would make certain the Vikings are in the 256-team field when the 11-player tournament pairings are announced Sunday. It would make for a memorable way to close out the history of the stadium, too.

Late last month, school officials announced that 1969 Dundee alum John D. Craig, retired chairman, president and CEO of EnerSys, has donated $1 million to be used exclusively toward the creation of the John D. Craig and Family Athletic Complex. The school will begin next week discussing the new complex at a public meeting. The plan is to build the new stadium in time for the 2020 season opener against Romulus Summit Academy North.

The Vikings have been playing football for decades in the current stadium, located behind what once was the high school in the village of fewer than 4,000 people. The new athletic complex will be built on the northwest side of the new high school.

“Our administration has already started to work on the project from a development standpoint, and I hope to get involved as well once our season is wrapped up,” McElvany said.

The new stadium will have a total visitor seating for approximately 2,500, new stadium lights and a new engineered natural grass athletic field. The facility will be capable of hosting football games, track meets and band festivals, and also feature a new scoreboard, new permanent concessions and restroom facilities.

The old stadium has been home to several great memories for Vikings fans over the years. One of them came earlier this season when Dundee’s defense made a goal-line stand during the final seconds to hold on for a 15-14 win over Ida. It was Dundee’s first football win over Ida in six years.

“To see the crowd and community on the field embracing those kids after that game was very special,” McElvany said.

Over the years, Dundee has won championships, completed undefeated seasons and hosted playoff games in the old stadium. In 2011, Dundee was still recovering from a tornado that caused millions of dollars in damage in the community when its football team brought some solace to the area with an 8-3 record and the only playoff win in school history.

“The greatest game ever for us in that stadium was the 2011 District playoff game versus Brooklyn Columbia Central,” said Dylan Williams, a 2012 Dundee graduate. “The field was all torn up from the tornado still. We took the lead in the fourth quarter with about a minute to go and held them.”

The most successful era for Dundee came during the 1960s when the Vikings won both Huron League and Southeastern Conference championships. Dundee didn’t lose for more than three years from 1963-1966 (finishing a combined 32-0-3), an accomplishment that remains the longest unbeaten streak in Monroe County Region history.

“The undying friendship, teamwork and dedication to a goal learned on this field will be with us all forever,” said Bob Busz, who played for those teams and graduated in 1966.

Ted Rath, a 2002 Dundee graduate and current assistant coach with the Los Angeles Rams, recalled several great memories from his time at Dundee. He was a student manager in 1994 and 1995 when his brother was playing quarterback, and then played for the Vikings himself. He met his wife, Robin, on that field while she was attending cheerleading practice.

“So many memories come flooding to mind when I think of my football experiences on that field,” Rath said. “I have been blessed to travel this great country and the world because of the sport of football. I have been to places like Wembley Stadium in London and Lambeau Field in Green Bay and many places in between. When I think about all the places that this sport has taken me, I realize that none are as sweet as that field in Dundee, Michigan.

“If I could stand on that field this week and say one thing it would simply be thank you,” Rath wrote in an e-mail. “Thank you for the memories, thank you for the victories, but also thank you for the defeats. The lessons learned on that field have shaped my life and driven me to become a better Christian, husband, father and person.”

While the new athletic complex is a welcome addition to the district and community, former players and coaches can’t help but recall the great times they made in the old stadium. Thoughts of fans rushing onto the field, wins over rival Ida and simply lining up for the kickoff at games at the stadium will keep the facility alive for Vikings fans for years to come.

Tyler Anson, a 2006 graduate, said he used to find his favorite spot at every home game to quietly reflect right before kickoff.

“My favorite memory from the stadium was always standing in the back of the end zone right before the national anthem,” Anson said. “There was something about being under the lights, looking down the field seeing the crowd, and hearing the anthem knowing you’re about to go to war with your brothers. It’s a feeling that will always give me chills.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Dundee’s football stadium has hosted games for 85 years. (Middle) Vikings fans stretch into the hillside next to the bleachers during a game. (Top team and middle football photos courtesy of Kyle McElvany; press box and field photos by Doug Donnelly.)

For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

March 17, 2023

Shawn Bramer and Dylan Barnowski, as middle schoolers, attended the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals every year.

Northern Lower PeninsulaLast year, they nearly played in the Division 3 title game – falling in a Semifinal but almost making a dream come true for the then-juniors and their Lake Leelanau St. Mary coach, Matt Barnowski, also Dylan’s father.

That dream began for some when the boys were coached by Matt as third graders, and they made serious strides last season. Before last winter, the last time the Eagles had won a Regional championship was 1950 – and no St. Mary boys basketball team had reached the Semifinals. Bramer and Dylan Barnowski – along with current seniors Jack Glynn, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar – had high hopes of making more history this winter.

The dream ended Wednesday night with a Regional Final loss to Frankfort, which St. Mary had defeated 54-41 during the regular season. This time, the Eagles were faced with a large number of K-12 students succumbing to illness – with all five of its starters at least somewhat sick – as nearly a third of the school’s tiny enrollment was out of school the day after the loss to the Panthers.

But you won’t hear any of the players or coaches making excuses. They give all the credit to Frankfort, and they’re ready to move on. And many in the LSM family know reaching the Regional Finals this season and Breslin Center in 2022 had absolutely no probability had Bramer and Barnowski not made an iron-clad agreement last summer. 

Eagles coach Matt Barnowski coaches up his team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick.The two friends vowed to help each other despite their personal, opposing challenges.

Barnowski and Bramer, through LSM’s cooperative agreement with Suttons Bay, went 3-for-3 playing in 8-Player Division 1 Football Finals during their first three years of high school. But through last summer Barnowski, who quarterbacked the Norseman, had no interest in football.  

Bramer, meanwhile, had been nursing a quad tendon injury since his sophomore football season and battling two bad knees but was thinking he could suffer though football and sit out the basketball season to recover. The all-state running back experienced training difficulties and even had his strength training severely hampered.

Football was king for Bramer, and he also loved basketball too. Basketball is number one to Barnowski. The longtime friends decided cut a deal to help each other — and their teammates — out.

“I was kind of on the edge,” said Bramer, who plays with braces on both knees. “After talking to each other, we both ended up just playing. 

“I really shouldn’t be playing sports, but I couldn’t miss out playing with my friends,” he continued. “We just figured it was our last season so we might as well just do it.”

Dylan Barnowski and Brammer also teamed up during successful football careers. Barnowski had been considering ending his football days immediately after the Norse fell short in their third-straight trip to the Finals, at Superior Dome in Marquette in Fall 2021. That loss was at the hands of Adrian Lenawee Christian 31-20.

The Norseman graduated most of their offensive and defense lines last spring and expected to be small in numbers. Until this fall, they had lost only one regular-season game on their way to three straight title game appearances. This year they finished 3-5.

The big linemen losses — Barnowski’s protection — was forcing him to weigh his injury risk against having a senior basketball season.

“We did it for each other,” Barnowski said. “I talked with Shawn, and we knew we had a big community behind us and it would be hard for them if we just quit. 

“I knew we weren’t going to have the same powerhouse team we had,” he continued. “We weren’t very good this year, but we still had a blast.”

This week’s loss put an end to the possible Breslin championship finish, but it left the friends happy with the decision to play both sports. The Eagles finished 20-4.

Barnowski led St. Mary in scoring. He averaged better than 20 points a game with more than seven rebounds and five assists. Bramer averaged just under 15 points per game, and almost 10 rebounds.

The two big men each scored 11 in the season-ending loss. Thompson scored 14. This year’s senior-dominated team likely will be remembered for its basketball success for some time. Barnowski, Bramer and Glynn experienced only one loss in District play over their four seasons.

“It’s a really special groups of kids,” Coach Barnowski said. “These kids kind of transformed St. Mary’s basketball.  

St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Brammer, Jack Gwynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. “They’ve really built the program,” he continued. “It’s been a roller coaster ride.”

Bramer and Dylan Barnowski also played baseball in the past for the Eagles, but that likely won’t happen this spring. Barnowski plans to golf, and Bramer expects to sit the spring season out and heal.

“We’ll never forget these last four years of varsity we played,” Barnowski said. “I‘ve decided to go a more relaxing route, and I’m going for some golf.”

With their Breslin dream over, the friends are ready to enjoy the St. Mary’s community support and move on. They’re bummed so many were sick in the end but won’t use it as an excuse.

“Hats off to Frankfort,” Barnowski said. “They did an incredible job of shutting us down.”

Bramer agreed.

“They just played their game better than we did,” he said. “They took the lead at the end of the third quarter, and it was a battle from there.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at tomspencer@chartermi.net with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) St. Mary’s seniors Dylan Barnowski, left, and Shawn Bramer hold up the team’s District championship trophy last week. (2) Eagles coach Matt Barnowski, center, and assistant Sander Scott coach up their team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick. (3) Dylan Barnowski and Bramer also teamed up during successful football careers. (4) St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Bramer, Jack Glynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. (Sideline photo by Tom Spencer; player photos by Emmerson Lamb Photography.)